Should MPs get a pay rise?

There's a lot of controversy going on at the moment surrounding MPs salary. The Independent Parliament Standards Authority (Ipsa) has come out and stated that it will be going ahead with proposals to increase MPs salary by 10% from roughly £67,000 up to £74,000 which they will receive whether they want it or not. Some MPs have stated they will be giving the extra money to charities that they say they already give money to.

Whether that is what they actually want to do or whether they are secretly in the back of their mind wanting to keep the money all to themselves but don't want to appear "out of touch" to the public for wanting to accept it who knows. Perhaps that's a bit of a sceptical view, however I must admit I am more likely to take a realistic perspective on human nature than anything else. Although, that's not to say I think everyone is a greedy, selfish, money grabbing individual.

David Cameron not long last year stated something along the lines of the proposed pay rise was unreasonable given the economic circumstances the country is in at the moment with trying to “balance the books” and cut the deficit and at a time when the public sector pay rises have either been cut, frozen or limited to some extent.

It is also my opinion that for MPs to get such big pay rise at this moment in time is hard to justify given these reasons. However, Ipsa claims that MPs pay has dropped below to its equivalents in the public sector and therefore a pay rise should be given to them in line with average earnings.

This wage debate is not new by any means, some quick research shows that back in 2009 Gordon Brown faced a similar problem when he was in office just after the financial crisis only a year earlier. He wanted to introduce a wage freeze for MPs which he eventually did after a 3% wage increase, but to the distaste of many of his backbenchers who wanted a much bigger pay rise.

Similarly, David Cameron could face the same opposition as Gordon Brown did with some of his own Conservative backbenchers who want to take the pay rise to be issued by Ipsa when David Cameron has been calling against it. A risky move that puts his slender majority at risk.

One thing is certainly clear however, public opinion appears to be against the proposed pay rise.
Here are a few polls conducted by Yougov on the issue:

58% of those asked thought the pay rise was too high with only 34% thinking it was fair. Let's be honest though, when has there ever been a time, or better yet I doubt there ever will be a time a poll is conducted and the outcome will display that the public thinks MPs pay is too low. That's just not going to happen.

Moreover, and I am including myself in this, what does the public know about being an MP? Do they know how hard, or for balance sake, how easy it is to be an MP? Again, I doubt it. It is my theory that a lot of public opinion against a pay rise is deriving from the misguided conclusion that the they, the public or individual, don't like politicians.

It's no secret that trust and likeness of politicians is at an all time low and perhaps they don't like the mere thought of a pay rise being handed to them regardless of whether they know the work load of what an MP has to put in or the value of their job.

I am by no means an exception, I've never been an MP before so I feel kind of silly dictating as to whether MPs should get a pay rise or not, but I'd wager my justification is based on different reasons to which I have outlined above than to what I think the public bases their decision on, but again it's just my theory.

It is also clear that if David Cameron were to willingly allow this pay rise to go ahead it would damage his popularity which he obviously doesn't want. Again, a septic would argue that he is simply advocating against the pay rise for this very reason out of interest. But who knows, it might be that he actually believes that the pay rise is unjustified given the economic circumstances like me. Only Cameron knows the answer to that.

Meanwhile, another poll suggested that a lot of people either agree with the idea of pay being set out by an independent authority or that it should be linked to equivalent positions of some kind. It makes me wonder then, if this has been proposed by the independent body Ipsa which has also stated that MPs pay has fallen below salaries of equivalent positions, what is the public's problem? Do they really think it is too high or do they just not like MPs and hate the idea of seeing them get a pay rise?

I think the real problem here is not the salaries themselves but the sometimes ludicrous amount of expenses and claims that politicians make for things that they don't particularly need to go about their political duties.

However, this is probably a more complicated issue on the face of it. It's relatively simple to rage against a salary increase  but the expenses and claims that MPs make is probably less public knowledge and more complicated given the amount of MPs and the amount of information available and needed to make an informed argument.

In terms of international standards, the UK is far behind a lot of countries in terms of what they pay their own MPs. See here:

By no means am I justifying a wage increase for this reason but at the same time it's always nice to think about. I'd be interested in knowing whether the issue of MPs pay is just as controversial in other countries in light of these statistics or if MPs pay is mainly  a problem in Britain, that would go some way in perhaps aiding my theory that a lot of the public is against a pay rise on the basis of their dislike of politicians. Perhaps trust in politicians isn't as low in other countries?

My final comment is that if the proposal goes ahead, the number of MPs should be reduced to compensate. I'm not sure how exactly how this would work, or even if it would work in the first place, perhaps that is something someone in government could look into.

Furthermore, despite the claims from Ipsa that this will cost no extra money to the tax payer overall because of planned further reductions on 'golden goodbyes, political expenses' and others, the public is likely not to believe that they have the costs covered and that it won't affect them in any way. Reducing the number of MPs to compensate might go better with the public. Either that, or scrap the 10% pay rise and simply give them a pay rise that is in line with equivalent average earnings of some kind.

By: Kieran Hudson, History and Politics university student blogging on British politics, news and current affairs.
Should MPs get a pay rise? Should MPs get a pay rise? Reviewed by Admin on 09:49 Rating: 5

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